State Reports - Texas
During the last year, the Texas Gap Analysis Project (TX-GAP) has suffered unexpected changes in personnel and problems with deliverables from cooperators (e.g., georeferenced aerial videography) which have altered our original schedule and required modifications to our methodological approach. Due to the time required for training and reorganization, changes in personnel have most affected the project. Nick Parker, the principal investigator for TX-GAP, has been forced by the departure of Raymond Sims (Project Coordinator) to assume a more active role in daily operations. We have a complete new team working for TX-GAP and are now moving forward in partnership with a program at the Museum at Texas Tech University.
The National Science Research Laboratory of the Museum (directed by Dr. Robert J. Baker), provides data and many of the ancillary records used in the vertebrate modeling program at TX-GAP and the Rio Grande Gap Analysis Project (RG-GAP) in Mexico. The state funding for the Museum has been provided to develop a natural resources database to complement the wildlife database being developed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Land cover mapping is now being developed based on intensive field surveys of vegetation (ground-control points) and the direct interpretation of preprocessed Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics Consortium imagery (hyperclustered Landsat Thematic Mapper scenes). Digital classification of the hyperclustered TM scenes is performed using Spectrum (Khoral Research, Inc.). For more details on TX-GAP methodologies, see the corresponding section in this bulletin. At present, we are working in the Panhandle and Trans-Pecos regions of West Texas and expect to produce preliminary vegetation maps for West Texas by the end of this year. Together with the participation of several East Texas cooperators, we will begin land cover analysis for East Texas next year.
In order to provide experts with an easy tool for building habitat profiles, to allow for data continuity, and to automate the modeling process, TX-GAP developed a Habitat Profile Database Application using Microsoft Access. This application prompts the user to answer "yes," "no," or "unknown" when asked if an animal is associated with a particular habitat characteristic. The habitat characteristics are presented in a hierarchical list (e.g., The Nature Conservancy vegetation classification scheme) thus allowing the user to define the habitat profile at any level within the hierarchy. The user is also prompted to list the references used to support the data and is given several opportunities to include detailed comments throughout the application. Although we have just begun to receive data, it appears that the application is working well and serving the goal of assimilating habitat affinities for Texas vertebrates. The true test of the application will come when we begin the modeling process later this year.
We are currently in the process of building our land stewardship coverage. To date, we have obtained digital data on both federal and state lands and are evaluating the completeness of these data.
An initiative from the USGS-BRDs Environmental and Contaminants Research Center (former Midwest Science Center) and the Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Texas Tech University has been funded to implement RG-GAP in Mexico. For further details, see the corresponding section in this Bulletin. Contacts with local Mexican research institutions have been established to define the strategy for the vegetation survey in Mexico, and we are now expecting the official approval notification to start with field work.